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COM 173: Public Speaking - S. Davis: Home

*Contact your instructor or consult your course's Blackboard shell for guidelines for the Historic Speech Analysis Paper.

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Historical Speech Analysis Paper

Public Speaking

Historical Speech Analysis Paper

Choose one of the iconic speeches from the attached list and write a paper analyzing its use of the five canons of rhetoric – invention, arrangement, style, memory and delivery - which we discussed in class. A copy of the Powerpoint used to discuss the canons is available on Blackboard under Course Content, Powerpoints.

Use the canons to organize the body of the paper. Start off with a paragraph introducing the speech and the speaker, explore each canon in its own paragraph and then conclude the paper. You must use at least 3 sources for this assignment. More is fine, less is not. The speech itself – in any format, like print and video – is one source. You need at least two others, like a newspaper article, book or other source that addresses the speech in some way. Cite your sources using MLA style, both within the paper and at the end on a Works Cited page. (See the MCC library home page for an MLA guide). 

  1. Canon of Invention: What is the topic of the speech, who is the audience and what is the setting? Do some research to learn the context that the speech took place within. For example, what was going on at the time the speech was given and what was its purpose overall? Was it to inform or persuade? What led this speaker to give that speech at that time? Be specific.
  2. Canon of Disposition: Was the speech organized? Could you identify the main points? How were the ideas connected? Again, be specific.
  3. Canon of Style: Address the style of the speech. Was the language casual or formal? Was it accessible to those we imagine were in the audience? Did the speaker use any literary techniques like repetition or metaphor to emphasize their message. Give one example.
  4. Canon of Memory: How does it appear the speaker learned the speech? Was it memorized, manuscript, extemporaneous or impromptu? Was that appropriate given the topic, the audience, the setting and the time period?
  5. Canon of Delivery: How was the speaker’s delivery? Did the speaker use everything at their disposal to deliver the speech like facial expressions and hand gestures? Do you think this was a successful speech? If so, why? If not, why not?

Your goal is not to tell me what was in the speech – so and so said this - but to analyze how what is in the speech is, or is not, an example of the use of the 5 canons of rhetoric. For example, MLK used the extemporaneous delivery technique in his “I Have a Dream” speech. This was appropriate because he was able to maintain some eye contact with the large audience and make use of hand gestures. Certainly, you may quote the speech, but only to use that quote as an example of the use of one of the canons.

Type up your analysis in 3-5 pages, double-spaced. At the top of your first page list your name, the name of the speaker and the title of the speech. A cover page is not necessary. This assignment is due on the day given by the professor during class. You must submit it on Blackboard and turn in a hard copy in class. No handwritten or late assignments will be accepted.

You must get a draft of your paper seen by a tutor at the Academic Support Center (ASC) and turn in a signed form confirming your visit. ASC tutors will not proofread your paper only nor will they sign the required form without reading your paper! See the Tutoring Form on Blackboard for more details. The confirmation of the tutoring session needs to be turned in with the hard copy of the paper.

This assignment is worth 200 points, 150 points for the paper and 50 for the tutoring session. If you do not complete the tutoring session you forfeit 50 points of the paper’s grade.

Below is the list of speeches from which you may choose for this assignment.

Below is the list of speeches from which you may choose for this assignment. You may only use one of the speeches listed here for this paper:

  1. Martin Luther King Jr. “I have been to the Mountaintop” 
  2. John F. Kennedy Inaugural Address 
  3. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Pearl Harbor
  4. Barack Obama “A More Perfect Union” & Speech to the Democratic National Committee 2004
  5. Steve Jobs Commencement Address 
  6. Ronald Reagan “Address to Nation on the Challenger” 
  7. Hillary Rodham Clinton “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” 
  8. Michelle Obama 2016 Democratic National Convention Address 


Photography of Abraham Lincoln